Tasmanian Blenny, Parablennius tasmanianus

Arthur Bartholomew1861

Museums Victoria

Museums Victoria
Carlton, Australia

This scientific illustration by Arthur Bartholomew was commissioned by Sir Frederick McCoy, Director of Museum Victoria as part of his zoological research. It forms part of the much larger Prodromus Collection. Many of the original illustrations in the collection informed the production of the two-volume work The Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria which was Museum Victoria's first major publication beginning in 1878.For over 40 years McCoy would bring specimens to Bartholomew to observe and nurture specifically for illustration. Bartholomew was methodical and his illustrations were consistently flawless. In this illustration his method is clearly revealed. Bartholomew would first describe their form with fine pencil lines, before building up overlapping washes of watercolour and eventually adding glazes of varnish and gum Arabic. At last he would capture the colour saturation and sheen of each part of the specimen, achieving a subtle three-dimensionality reproducing both likeness and texture.The Prodromus project followed a popular formula of the time, seeking to identify and classify the natural wonders of the 'new world'. Such publications reached a peak in popularity with the work of John Gould in England and the earlier work of James Audubon in America. In Australia, many professional and amateur publications, including Aldine's systematic studies of the colonies and Louise Anne Meredith's Bush Friends From Tasmania, contributed to the genre.The publication of the Prodromus was an enormous undertaking, utilising the work of numerous artists, collectors, lithographers and publishers, over an extended period of time. Although costly in both financial and professional terms, it was met with critical acclaim and wide popular support. Financial battles were waged and lost by McCoy, but ultimately the Prodromus has stood the test of time and remains one of Museum Victoria's finest publications. McCoy died without completing his systematic study, but even at the time few believed that 'any of us will live to witness the completion of the work, if the entire Fauna of Victoria is to be illustrated.'


  • Title: Tasmanian Blenny, Parablennius tasmanianus
  • Creator: Arthur Bartholomew
  • Creator Lifespan: 1834 - 1909
  • Creator Nationality: English
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Creator Birth Place: Bruton, United Kingdom
  • Date Created: 1861
  • Physical Dimensions: w210 x h150 mm
  • Type: Image
  • Rights: Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Arthur Bartholomew, Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Arthur Bartholomew
  • External Link: Museum Victoria
  • Themes: fish
  • Artist biography: The son of decorator Thomas Bartholomew, Arthur Bartholomew was born in Bruton, Somersetshire, in 1834. Little is known about his early life; Bartholomew apprenticed as an engraver in Exeter and had some lithographic training before leaving for Australia in 1852 at 18 years of age. Arriving in Melbourne on the Oriental, in December that year he set off to explore the bush before sailing to Tasmania, where he met his future wife, Eliza Ann Nicholls. He soon returned to Melbourne to assist William Blandowski in illustrating specimens for his encyclopedia on the natural history of Australia. When Blandowski set off on an expedition on the Murray River, Bartholomew remained in Melbourne. With Blandowski in self-imposed exile following his conflict with fellow members of the Philosophical Institute, Bartholomew returned to Longford, Tasmania, marrying Eliza in 1856. They had two children in quick succession, Christianna (1857) and Adelina (1858), before returning to Melbourne where Arthur took up the position that defined his professional career.On 1 September 1859 Bartholomew was appointed Attendant in the department of Natural History at the newly-opened Melbourne University. For the next six months he attended McCoy's lectures and assisted in the laboratory, his role expanding in 1860 to take advantage of his artistic ability.Bartholomew began both a zoological and geology series for McCoy which would form the basis of the Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria and Prodromus of the Palaeontology of Victoria. During the following four decades he illustrated more than 700 zoological specimens, along with an as-yet undocumented number of palaeontology and geological specimens. Along with his duties as McCoy's assistant, he also transferred many drawings, both his own and those of other artists, onto stone for the production of lithographs.
  • Artist: Arthur Bartholomew

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